Reviewed by Ken A. Fjord
It’s on. The 2016 Helpmann Awards are just over a month away, and the list of talented hopefuls has been announced. Now in their 16th year, the Helpmanns honour excellence in Australia’s live performance industry. Held in the Wharf Two Theatre and the beautiful Bar at the End of the Wharf, the nomination ceremony started the Helpmann season with elegance and simplicity.
Hosted by the delightful Chloe Dallimore, the announcement kept its focus on the nominees, allowing for their achievements to speak for themselves. With 41 categories up for grabs, there were plenty of names to read. Our collection of hosts, each eminent performers in their own right, were quick and efficient in their task. Particular performers and productions would light up the room as the audience remembered golden moments from the past year of performances. Often the room was peppered with the murmurings of the crowd turning to one another and going “yes, weren’t they good?”, “haven’t they done well?”.
Highlights included the veritable theatrical juggernaut Matilda the Musical receiving 13 nominations, the most of any production in Helpmann History, or the announcement of Toby Thatcher as the winner of the final Brian Stacey Award for Emerging Australian Conductors. But the clear crowd favourite was Little Shop of Horrors by Luckiest Productions and Tinderbox Productions, which, along with Ladies in Black by the Melbourne and Queensland Theatre Companies, is up for five different awards.
The organisers of the event, Live Performance Australia, kept discussion on the politics of art in Australia to a minimum, but it would be impossible to ignore the state of arts funding in the current climate. Audience members were encouraged to take part in the current #istandwiththearts campaign, lobbying for the Australian Government to return $72.8 million in funding to the Australia Council for the Arts. Live Performance Australia’s shortlist for the awards is a powerful reminder of the vitality and diversity of the arts industry in Australia. Every state and territory has been represented in the nomination process and within the nominations themselves.
Ultimately the event wasn’t a show in and of itself, but a gleeful teasing of what is to come. And given the impressive array of talent that has been nominated, there is much to wait for.
Photo by Brendan Esposito